You Might Wait to Read This, Or Not...

timePractitioners of structural integration know that every session is a blend of both short-term, immediately noticeable gains as well as setting into motion a process of longer term gains. That makes it a "both/and" in my book (as opposed to "either/or"). I think it's pretty unique in terms of providing both instant and delayed gratification. The more I think about it  though, the more I think all good mind/body medicine is a combination  of the two.

But what if creating sustainable change is not just about willpower but also our perception of time?

Writes Maria Konnakova: "When we set a self-control goal for ourselves, we often have specific time frames in mind: I’ll lose a pound a week; a month from now, I’ll no longer get cravings for that cigarette; the bus or train will come in 10 minutes (and I’ve committed to taking public transportation as part of lessening my carbon footprint, thank you very much).

"But what happens if our initial estimate is off? The more time passes without the expected reward — it’s been 20 minutes and still nothing; I’ve been dieting for a week and a half now and still weigh the same — the more uncertain the end becomes. Will I ever get my reward? Ever lose weight? Ever get on that stupid train?"

Joseph Kable, researcher at  the University of Pennsylvania's  decision neuroscience lab, adds:  “There are lots of situations, probably the majority of situations, in the real world, where waiting longer is actually a valid cue that the reward is getting further and further away.”

So if the future is uncertain, eat the cookie now? Exactly.

"In a study published earlier this year, they began by asking participants to estimate how much longer they had to wait for a more desirable future reward — a chocolate chip cookie or a candy bar, depending on their preference. Over and over, they found the same thing: The longer the wait time — anywhere from 2 to 130 minutes — the longer they thought they’d have to keep on waiting.

“The basic idea,” Mr. McGuire said, “is that while a decision maker is waiting, he is constantly re-evaluating the thing he’s waiting for. You’re waiting for the same reward, but your assessment of it changes as a function of the passage of time.”

Gratify your curiosity and read all about it here

Image: Melanie Toye.